Only an independent commission can reveal the truth of Russian interference
By Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi
It has become increasingly apparent that a full and transparent investigation of Russian interference in our democracy is needed to restore Americans’ faith in their government. Though many in Congress and across the country have acknowledged the need for such an investigation, serious questions remain as to who should conduct it. While both congressional intelligence committees have launched inquiries, the current environment of partisanship fundamentally endangers their ability to effectively examine the activities of the Kremlin. To conduct a thorough and non-partisan investigation of Russian interference, the current environment demands the establishment of a 9/11-style independent commission.
While our country awaits a full inquiry, each week brings new and disturbing reports of potential Russian interference and illicit ties. This administration has seen both its Attorney General and a National Security Advisor give false statements concerning their contacts with Russian agents. A senior advisor to President Trump faces serious questions over his December meetings with the Russian ambassador and a Putin-allied bank president.
In only the last few days, additional reports have emerged concerning the potential ties between the president’s former campaign chairman and Russian money laundering operations. Troubling allegations of White House efforts to prevent former acting Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying on Russian interference have come to light. The trail of revelations, reports, and rumors only grows, and with it the need for an investigation to sort facts from fiction.
Recent events have made clear that the congressional intelligence committees are incapable of providing the definitive and impartial investigation that apparent Russian interferences demand. The state of investigations was already fraught before Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-Calif.) secret and unexplained meeting on White House grounds, but he has since proven himself unable to lead any effective investigation. When the chair of an investigating committee refuses to share vital findings or source information with any of his colleagues, his committee’s ability to function has been fundamentally undermined.
One option some have proposed is to impanel a select committee on the issue. While there was a time when such committees could effectively execute such an investigation, the politicization which has gripped Congress has infected select committees as well. Witness the Select Committee on Benghazi last year which held months of contentious hearings and issued two competing reports because the members of the committee could not come to any consensus.
Others have advocated for the selection of a special prosecutor, but this is no guarantee of a satisfactory outcome. Any such prosecutor would be chosen by the Deputy Attorney General, a member of the same administration which will be investigated. Placing the choice of a special prosecutor in the hands of those potentially under investigation would only lead to more partisan pursuits and conclusions. For example, under a special prosecutor, an investigation could focus on only the leakers of information while ignoring the fundamental question of Moscow’s interference.
Recognizing Congress’ own inability to effectively execute this investigation, it is clear that an independent, non-partisan commission must be established. Such a commission could be modeled on the very effective 9/11 Commission. It is time to investigate Russian interference in our democracy and to address it in a manner that will help restore Americans’ trust in their government.
Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat, represents the 8th District of Illinois and serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform